Is there anything in the world more frustrating than an editor who goes silent? I used to pull my hair out waiting for assignments or pitch responses. But when I developed a rapport with an editor who knew more about me and trusted me, that relationship seemingly led to a bottomless well of work. These editors would approve two-sentence pitches and offer assignments without needing a prompt from me.
The question is, how do you turn the former into the latter, without inundating their inbox and becoming a freelancer non grata? I spoke with veteran freelance writers to learn how they build that rapport and stayed top of mind for future work. (Hint: It’s easier than you think.)
Show them social love
Publishers love when contributors can help them expand their digital reach. So Jennifer Goforth Gregory, author of The Freelance Content Marketing Writer, uses social channels to stay on an editor’s radar. “When possible, I try to follow the editor’s personal Twitter account and share their stuff so they are sure to notice,” she said. (Note: Most editors appreciate Twitter follows but you might want to stop short of Facebook friend requests or pitches via Twitter direct message.)
Following an editor and the publication on social media offers an organic way to engage even when you don’t have a pitch to discuss. “I emailed a compliment about a project [featured on an editor’s feed] which also showed my knowledge of the industry and content marketing,” Gregory said. If that editor moves on to bigger and better positions, perhaps that visibility could help you earn a seat and go along for the ride.
Watch their back
When Rachel Kramer Bussel notices a typo or formatting issue on a site where she contributes, she’ll alert the editor if they’re on good terms—even if it’s not her work. “If I haven’t officially worked with the editor yet—if I’ve only pitched them—or am not sure how it would be received, I don’t do it,” Bussel says, “but editors have been appreciative, and it shows I’m a reader, too.”
Keep your message friendly and make it easy for the editor to spot and correct the issue. (In other words, stick with digital copy.) “I’ll usually copy and paste the paragraph in question or send a screenshot,” Bussel said.
The more you can show you’re invested in the success of the publication, the more you’ll earn your editor’s trust. Then when it comes time to assign stories, they’ll always start with the writers they can count on most.
Send a personal note
Working remotely with editors can feel impersonal at times. While not everyone is the Hallmark type, Deborah Lynn Blumberg, a writer based in Houston, Texas, likes to send handwritten New Year’s cards to her clients. She also sends small gifts such as Starbucks gift cards or Texas pralines to repeat clients.
“It’s a small gesture to recognize how much I enjoy working with my clients and to thank them for the interesting projects they let me work on in the past year,” Blumberg said. “Clients appreciate me taking the time to reach out, and I do think it’s helped deepen the relationships.”
If New Year’s is too hectic, consider sending cards for Thanksgiving or another time of year to stand out from the crowd.
Share story ideas (even if you don’t pitch)
“When you help editors out—even when it doesn’t help you—it keeps you on their minds,” explained Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski, an award-winning author and humorist.
Wojciechowski helps by sharing industry news and stories (not pitches) editors may want to run—a simple tactic that lets editors know she is well-versed in a particular field. Wojciechowski believes it’s possible to stay on an editor’s radar without driving them crazy, especially if you’re adding value to their jobs.
She added: “When you treat editors like regular people—which they are, but some writers put them on pedestals—I find that they truly appreciate it.”